I like the idea behind this short film. Young African-American woman gets an A on an essay she wrote about the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry after having viewed the movie, Glory. Her adviser suggests that she visit the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, D.C. to talk with curator Hari Jones. The two walk through the exhibit to address some of the inaccuracies in the movie.
So why does this movie, and Hari Jones specifically, feel a need to lash out against Gary Gallagher? Gallagher offers extensive commentary of the movie’s historical basis in Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War. I suspect that Jones knows this, which makes his comment all the more bizarre. Jones strikes me as a knowledgeable and passionate historian. Perhaps this script was written by someone else. I fear that the result, including the embracing of the self-emancipation thesis without any reference to the Union army and other factors, is as much a distortion as Glory.
The other thing that struck me as awkward was the pointing out that you will not find any quotes from historians on the exhibit panels. According to Jones, if you weren’t there than your words will not appear. Fair enough, but it is worth pointing out that their exhibit is built on the backs of decades of careful research on the black experience during the war from professional historians, including Gary Gallagher.